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COVID-19 Quickly Becomes Most Important U.S. Problem

COVID-19 Quickly Becomes Most Important U.S. Problem

Story Highlights

  • 45% name COVID-19 as top problem, up from 13% in March
  • 20% cite government, which has held the top spot for much of Trump era

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The novel coronavirus has quickly surged to the top of the list of most important problems facing the U.S., surpassing government, which has consistently held the top spot with few exceptions since early 2017. The 45% of Americans naming COVID-19 dwarfs all other problems cited, including government or poor leadership (20%), the economy or jobs (9%) and healthcare (6%). All other problems are cited by 3% or fewer Americans.

Split bar chart. Most important U.S. problem list for February, March and April, COVID-19 is now the top problem.

These findings, from Gallup's April 1-14 annual Economy and Personal Finance Poll, track with recent Gallup Panel data that Americans are more worried about getting COVID-19 than they are about experiencing financial hardship as a result of it. By early March, as the effects of COVID-19 were harder felt in the U.S., it was named by 13% of Americans.

Since February, mentions of the economy or unemployment have ticked up slightly. But even with unemployment soaring, economic confidence tumbling, and seven in 10 Americans saying the U.S. economy is in a recession or depression, government is seen as more of a problem than the economy.

The only notable difference among key demographic subgroups is that a slightly higher percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (17%) than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (11%) name economic issues as the top problem.

Mentions of COVID-19 Historically High

Gallup has been tracking Americans' view of the nation's most important problem since 1939, including monthly measures in recent history since 2001. Over the past two decades, mentions of COVID-19 rank as one of the highest percentages Gallup has recorded for an issue. In fact, only the economy in general, during the Great Recession, was mentioned by significantly more Americans than name COIVD-19 now.

Specifically, mentions of the economy peaked at 58% in November 2008. Terrorism was 46% one month after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, jobs was 39% in September 2011 amid high unemployment and the Iraq War was named by 38% in February 2007.

Highest Most Important Problem Mentions, 2001-2020
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
Problem %
Nov 2008 Economy 58
Oct 2001 Terrorism 46
Apr 2020 COVID-19 45
Sep 2011 Jobs/Unemployment 39
Feb 2007 Iraq War 38

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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